Cocktails Fo-rum: Rum-maging Our Shelves For Our Favorite Rum Mixers
We love talking about cocktails. We can do it all day… well, actually that is what we do all day. But more precisely, we love demystifying cocktails - making them accessible, throwing open the doors of at home cocktail mixing. Some of our favorite conversations we get to have with folks who visit us here at 240 Grand Ave in sometimes-sunny South San Francisco, are about specific bottles and why is that we put them on our shelves and what we do with them when we take them down from the shelf. Recently, if you read our Navigating Rum post, you may have noticed that we’ve had rum on our minds and in our glasses. So we thought, what would be a more fitting companion piece to our rum article than an article on rum companions. We polled our team and came up with six bottles that we think are a particularly great fit for mixing up rum cocktails from all corners of the world. Below we cover some brief history, taste profiles and a few cocktails for these six bottles: Amaro di Angostura, Amaro Rammazzoti, St. Elizabeth’s Allspice Dram (aka Pimento Dram), Giffard’s Banane du Bresil Liqueur, Clement Creole Shrubb, and of course, John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum. Put on your glasses and grab your mixing spoon: time to go mix-ploring.
One of the first ingredients people come to know when getting into making cocktails is Angostura Bitters. But fewer know about the amaro with the same name. The tell-tale yellow cap signals it’s close kinship to the iconic bitters. In fact, the amaro is made by the same Trinidad distillery and carries much of the same flavor profile - but in a much more potable way. While some people try drinking shots of the bitters, and some recipes call for a hefty amount (looking at you, Trinidad Sour), this bottle offers a much more pleasant way of making the Angostura flavor last. In addition to the traditional Angostura spice notes, the amaro is rich with a dark chocolate feel, finishing with warm notes of cinnamon and licorice.
So what can you do with this bottle? Well, it’s a pretty great sipper on it’s own, in a post-dinner, dessert-like slot, though it can be a tad too rich for some. Throw it over some ice, maybe add an orange peel? No wrong way here. But it really is fantastic in cocktails, especially rum ones.
Road to Manhattan (adapted from a Clover Club recipe)
This modern cocktail is a love letter to Angostura. Just a tad more complicated then a Rum Black Manhattan (see next section), this cocktail is simple to make and features House of Angostura flavors in all their forms. It has just the right amount of gingery-contrast to highlight all that we love about the warm, herby-spicy Angostura flavors.
1 oz Rum (here we’re looking for a richer rum, the original recipe calls for Angostura 1824, but Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva or Plantation 20th Anniversary will work just as well)
1 oz Amaro di Angostura
1/2 oz Ginger Liqueur
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Stir with plenty of ice. Strain into a glass over one large ice cube. Garnish with a brandied cherry.
Queen’s Park Swizzle Revisited
In 1893 the island of Trinidad saw the opening of the grand Queen’s Park Hotel. Hoping that the allure of luxury would drive more travelers to the then lesser known island, the hotel quickly joined the ranks of highly sought out places of respite. Though the hotel has long been shuttered, it did leave us with a bit more then just stories: as customary for the times, a great hotel had to have a signature cocktail, and in the 1920s, the Queen’s Park Swizzle was invented to serve such a role. The original recipe calls for a generous use of Angostura bitters, but here we mellow the drink a bit by substituting the amaro for the bitters and lowering the amount of syrup used. The result is a refreshing, minty cocktail that puts more emphasis on the chocolatey flavors of Angostura while still letting the rum flavors shine through.
Lightly muddle the mint leaves and a shell from half of the lime you just juiced. Add the rest of the ingredients. Fill the glass with crushed ice and swizzle* until the glass frosts over. Garnish with a large sprig of mint. Serve with a straw.
*Swizzling involves inserting a swizzle stick or barspoon deep into the crushed ice and holding it firmly between flat palms. Rotate the stick rapidly by rubbing palms back and forth against one another. Your swizzle has been properly swizzled once the glass has become frosty. Swizzle with abandon!
Ramazzotti traces it’s herby roots to Milan of 1815, where it was concocted by the herbalist Ausano Ramazzotti. Seeking to improve on the tonics, tinctures and herbal liqueurs standard for the time (generally recipes that were invented by various clergy medicine men of the middle ages), Ramazzotti spent quite a few years experimenting in his tiny laboratory, eventually emerging with a 33 ingredient bottle we know today. The amaro caught on fairly quickly in Milan, and within 30 years was popular enough that Ramazzotti operated a well known cafe by the La Scala that served the bittersweet liqueur instead of coffee. After his death, his family continued to produce the amaro, scaling up and modernizing, but never significantly changing the recipe nor the look of the bottle.
So what does it taste like? Ramazzotti is one of the more balanced amari, confidently walking the line between sweet and bitter. The 33 ingredients that include orange peel, vanilla, quinine, angelica root, rose petals, etc combine to form a flavor that brings berries, citrus and chocolate-coffee notes to the forefront. Licorice, nuts and spice round out this complex sip, leaving you with a pleasant, light herbal bitterness at the end.
Like most Italian amari, this one was invented, and is fantastic to, sip on it’s own, but it seems a crime to not lend it’s herby richness to some fun cocktails.
Rum Black Manhattan
As the descriptive name illustrates, this cocktail is exactly what it sounds like. Exchanging the whisky for an oaky, whisky drinker's Barbados rum and using Ramazzotti in place of a vermouth results in a well balanced, warm, nutty cocktail never fails to be a crowd pleaser that would be perfectly fitting in Ausano’s cafe.
Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until chilled and strain into a stemmed glass. Garnish with orange peel if desired.
Invented by Shae Minnillo for Maison Premiere in Brooklyn, this is a unique cocktail that features the marriage of some strong personalities. The blackstrap rum (the darkest rum there is it’s made from the darkest molasses, it’s also the richest and thickest) turns out to be a great compliment to the already licorice-y, orange-y notes of the Ramazzotti. The cognac brightens things up and cuts through the viscosity of the darker ingredients while the pamplemousse mellows and bridges the diverse flavors. It’s often hard to find success in bringing together ingredients as diverse as these, but when it works it’s riveting.
Combine all the ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a glass. Express an orange peel over the top and garnish. Serve up.
Allspice dram doesn’t require much clarification - it tastes like allspice. But that’s not a very descriptive name for a spice is it? Allspice comes from the dried berries of the Pimento dioica tree (thus the alternative name for Allspice Dram is Pimento Dram) and has a taste that brings together notes of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg (and thus the “all-spice” moniker, though wouldn’t “three-spice” be more appropriate?). Wray and Nephew imported their version of allspice dram to the US until the 1980s, and when they stopped, this essential liqueur disappeared from the collective drinking pallet until industrious bartenders began grassroots efforts to resurrect it through own infusions or self managed “importing.” Fortunately there are a few options readily available now, and we are big fans of the St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram in particular for it’s true, natural taste.
The Allspice Dram is not exactly meant to be sipped on it’s own, but is a perfect cocktail companion. Very much like its role in cooking, a small amount of allspice in cocktail goes a long way to make the other flavors pop and shine. Try it out with tow of our favorites below:
Planter’s punch in its various guises was and is popular across the Caribbean, but is most closely associated with Jamaica, where it is often remembered using a rhyming formula: “One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak, and a little spice to make it nice”. This basic formula is what almost all classic Tiki drinks are based on, and for good reason. It works every time. This interpretation is taken from Martin Cate’s tiki bible, Smuggler’s Cove, and is the version served at his now legendary San Francisco bar of the same name.
Combine all ingredients in a mixing tin and shake well with a boatload of crushed ice. Open pour (with ice) into a Highball glass and garnish with a sprig of mint.
Three Dots and a Dash
Going into more Tiki territory with this historic cocktail, this is a recipe by the legendary Donn Beach of Don the Beachcomber’s fame. Invented during World War II, the name is the Morse code for “Victory.” This recipe in particular is an adaptation of the recipe by Smuggler’s Cove. The name of the cocktail itself is illustrated by the garnish of the drink: the three cherries stand in for the three dots, and the pineapple chunk is the final dash.
1/2 oz fresh lime juice
1/2 oz fresh orange juice
1/2 oz honey syrup
1/4 oz John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum
1/4 oz St. Elizabeth Allspice Dram
1 1/2 oz Aged Rhum Agricole (Clement VSOP Rhum)
1/2 oz Blended aged rum (Hamilton Demerara 86 Rum)
Add all the ingredients to a mixing tin with plenty of crushed ice a few larger cubes. Shake well and pour with a gated finish* into a pilsner glass (though most tall glasses will do). Garnish with three cherries and one chunk of pineapple on a cocktail pick.
*gated finish: a straining technique to ensure that too much ice won’t keep the drink from overflowing the glass. The beginning of the pour has the strainer higher up on the glass opening, allowing for a free flow of the cocktail with ice. Once the glass is more then half full, the strainer is lowered to keep the ice out.
Bananas and rum were meant for each other and this bottle from Giffard is one of the banana…est. There isn’t too much to explain about it - would you like luscious banana flavor in your drink? Add some of this Brazilian banana liqueur (note, the bananas are Brazilian-grown, the liqueur itself is French). Made through slow maceration of bananas which is then mixed with a concentrated banana distillate and cognac, this not-so-sublte drink is pure banana in a bottle. It’s perfectly pleasant over ice with a bit of citrus, but it is absolutely brilliant as a sweet component of a diverse group of cocktails (try it instead of sugar in a rum old fashioned!).
Daiquiri du Brésil
This version of the Banana Daiquiri (and there are many fine ones to choose from) stands out by being a bit less sweet and brighter then some of it’s brethren. Through it’s simplicity it highlights one of our favorite rums and leaves the banana flavor feeling light and natural. This recipe was perfected by Connor O’Brien of Rumba in Seattle.
Shake all the ingredients with ice, then fine strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with a lime wheel.
This recipe, originating at Pagan Idol in San Francisco, was re-created and improvised on by our team member Denni. She fell in love with the silky, chocolatey sweetness of this cocktail and wrote about it here: https://www.bittersandbottles.com/blogs/cocktailshop/cocktail-drinking-games-for-problem-solvers
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir. Strain into a glass with one big ice cube. This recipe makes 2 cocktails.
Not all orange liqueurs are created equal. Not even close. And the Creole Shrubb from Clement was made to stand out with the rum loving crowd (or to make you fall in love with rum). The base of the Creole Shrubb is not a neutral grain spirit as common with most orange liqueurs, but a French style rhum agricole (Clement from Martinique produces one of our favorite rhums agricole that you can read about here). Bitter orange peel and spices add a sharper edge to the leaner, diverse flavors of the rhum agricole, yielding an orange liqueur that’s not as sweet as a curaçao and one loaded with complex flavor. Its rum roots make it an essential ingredient for a diverse garden of rum cocktails.
B+B Tiki Punch Cocktail
We love this bottle so much that we came up with a cocktail recipe of our own to highlight it along with a few of our other favorite ingredients. Feel free to follow and have fun with the recipe below, or check out the kit we put together over here. We’ve combined some of our favorite things here at B+B: Funky Jamaican Rum, Amaro, and obscure liqueurs, and made our own spin on some of the great Tiki classics of yesteryear.
Combine all ingredients in mixing tin and shake well with plenty of crushed ice. Open pour into Collins glass and top with crushed ice until full. Garnish with full sprig of mint and serve with a straw.
El Presidente Estridente
Another favorite cocktail that we mentioned in our recent rum post is the El Presidente, a cocktail whose proper recipe was all but lost in the aftermath of Cuban revolution. We love it, it’s soft and subtle, but with an underlying vibrance that begs the question, how is it not a staple of classic cocktails? In this variation, we amp up the vibrant tones of the original, bringing them to the surface for a much more colorful cocktail - let’s call it, El Presidente Estridente.
Combine ingredients and stir well with plenty of ice. Strain into chilled coupe glass and garnish with a long lemon twist, a brandied cherry, or better yet, both.
Creole Mai Tai
Lastly, we couldn’t leave the Creole Shrubb without a creole inspired cocktail to pair it with. Another recipe that features some of our favorite ingredients, this version of the classic tiki drink brings in more spice and texture. Otherwise, it’s a pretty straightforward way to showcase the sharper notes of the Creole Shrubb versus the more traditional curaçao. A must for any Mai Tai fan!
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Last, and certainly, not even a little bit least, we have John D. Taylor’s Velvet Falernum. This is a bottle we get asked about frequently. The questions go something like “I see this listed in half the rum drinks I order…. but what the hell is a falernum?! And who is John?” All good questions. Some of them are a bit frustratingly hard to answer - for one, even though falernum is incredibly common, it’s precise origin isn’t even remotely known. The name itself might very well be based on a misunderstanding.
The latin word “falernum” is thought to refer to falernian wine, a stronger type of wine whose grapes were harvested from the slopes of Mt. Falernus. It became the most renown wine in the Roman empire, often mentioned by author-philosohphers including Pliny the Elder and served at banquets celebrating the victories of Julius Caesar.
Modern day falernum has little in common with wine of any kind. Generally speaking it is a syrup or liqueur containing limes or lime zest and spices (those commonly being: almond, clove and ginger). It was invented in Barbados sometime in the 1800s (that’s really as specific as the date gets), far temporally and geographically removed from the Roman Empire.
So how did this Barbados emigre wind up with such a romanesque name? Well, best we can tell, there is a good chance it was a case of loss in translation. According to a 1982 New York Times story, a local producer was asked for the ingredients in the falernum syrup, and a received an answer of, “Haf a lern um” — or, "you’ll just have to learn for yourself” in the local dialect. So maybe a name not half as divine? Or who knows? Here — no one really.
What we do know is that either Bajan Henry Parkinson or John D. Taylor (the same!) mixed up the more standardized version we know today sometime in the 1890s. Don Beach popularized in his tiki drinks in the 1930s (including his Mai Tai) and it’s been a tiki staple ever since.
And for a good reason: the taste of candied lime and clove are perfect rum companions, and fantastic alternatives (and compliments) to the more common orange liqueurs or sugar syrups. Here we highlight two classic cocktails - one where falernum is more prominently featured, and one where it’s a small part of a much larger whole.
Corn and Oil
This cocktail is an updated version of the Barbados classic, which is traditionally just rum and Velvet Falernum, a sweetened and spiced rum based Liqueur that is just as ubiquitous on the island as rum itself. Corn refers to the sweet Falernum, and oil to a dark, aged rum. This recipe, taken from B.T. Parson’s Bitters, adds lime juice and Angostura bitters, balancing out the Falernum and turning it into a kind of simplified Tiki drink.
2 oz Mt. Gay Black Barrel Rum
1/2 oz Velvet Falernum
1/2 oz Lime Juice
5 dashes Angostura Bitters
Combine all ingredients in mixing tin and shake well with plenty of ice. Pour over ice into whatever clean drinking vessel you have on hand.
We have to end with the the most notorious of the Beachcomber creations: The Zombie. A hefty and diverse dose of rum drives this once mysterious cocktail. Rumored to carry madness-inducing properties, the only reason this cocktail drives us crazy is if we’re short on counter space. This 1934 invention is luscious and boozy, and carries all notable parts that later came to be known as tiki stereotypes. It’s a bit of work, but there’s no substitute for the great classic. Our version is adapted from Smuggler's Cove who in turn adapted it from Donn Beach.
¾ oz fresh lime juice
¼ oz fresh grapefruit juice
¼ oz cinnamon syrup (BG Reynolds)
1 tsp Grenadine
½ oz Velvet Falernum
1 ½ oz blended aged rum (Appleton Reserve)
1 ½ oz column still aged rum (Flor de Cana 7)
1 oz black blended overproof rum (Plantation OFTD)
1 dash Absinthe
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Combine all ingredients in a shaking tin with 12 ounces of crushed ice and 4 to 6 "agitator" cubes. Flash blend and open pour with gated finish into a Zombie glass. Garnish with a mint sprig and healthy dose of trepidation.
Phew -- that's a lot of rum cocktails. Go forth, and mix well!